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Group says UTEP’s disabled parking costs too much. Official says that’s ‘misleading’

UTEP called out for its disabled parking spot prices
Salette Ontiveros
UTEP’s ADA parking fee for the 2019-2020 school year cost $500 and $250 fee for employees and students respectively.

An online petition by the Texas State Employees Union (TSEU) is asking UTEP  to make its Americans with Disabilities Act (ACA) parking spaces on campus free of charge for individuals with disabilities.

As of Oct. 19, the “UTEP: Reverse Exclusionary ADA Parking Permit Prices” petition has 1,859 signatures, only 141 away from its goal of 2,000. According to TSEU, UTEP’s ADA parking fee for 2019-2020 school year was “the highest” among University of Texas institutions, costing $500 and $250 for employees and students.

“To keep the campus accessible to its faculty, staff, and students, especially those who are disabled, we demand that the University immediately address its exclusionary ADA parking permits,” TSEU wrote in the petition addressed to UTEP President Heather Wilson, Vice President for Business Affairs Mark McGurk, and Director of Parking and Transportation Jerri Herrera.

The next highest ADA parking prices, according to the petition, stemmed from the University of Texas at Arlington with prices ranging from $200-$273. The lowest fee came from The University of Texas of the Permian Basin with  $55. UTEP first responded to the petition in an interview conducted by KTSM Channel 9, where McGurk said the parking fees at UTEP pay for services such as the institution’s parking garages and shuttle services.

McGurk told The Prospector that all of the UTEP employees and students that are buying inner campus permits pay the exact same price as the ones for the ADA parking permit. McGurk added that the comparison of the data collected by the TSEU is not an apples-to-apples comparison and UTPB’s low charge of fifty dollars is due to the university only having surface lots available for parking. UTPB does not have any parking garages like UTEP, McGurk explained.

McGurk said the group’s charges are “misleading” because other costs factor in, saying it is not the highest rate in the entire University of Texas System.

“When you build a parking garage, you pay debt surface normally over a 30-year period and it cost around $25,000 per parking space, so they are very expensive to build,” McGurk said.

Others think that it’s strange that so much parking revenue is required to subsidize infrastructure and maintenance costs.

“I think part of the issue is that it is interesting that our parking permits would have to pay for the infrastructure and maintenance of the garages,” Dr. Aurelia Lorena Murga, associate professor, graduate adviser and associate chair in UTEP’s department of sociology and anthropology, said.

Dr. Sofia Chew, associate professor of instruction in the department of history, was one of the individuals that worked with the TSEU to create the petition believes the ADA community should have been consulted prior to initiation of the parking projects.

“It is very unfair to charge certain sectors of the population without first asking them if they feel that it is a cost that are willing and able to pay,” Chew said.

Several individuals took to social media to express their opinion on UTEP’s  ADA parking prices.

One Twitter user named Lydia O’Dell said,  “You have to pay to park in their ADA spots? I get having a parking permit in general but whole ass extra one if your disabled?”

According to  UTEP’s parking website, disabled parking areas are enforced  24 hours a day. A ‘Class H’, which is a UTEP ADA parking permit, allows the holder to park in any ADA space in the color zone designated by the permit, except for those spaces specifically marked as reserved.

Annual permit fees are assessed based on the zone requested. ADA inner campus parking for the 2020-2021 school year is $525 for employees and $200 for students. The parking site also mentions that if an individual is unable to find an ADA designated space, they may park in any available space that is not a reserved space.

Isaiah Ramirez may be reached at [email protected]; @_IsaiahRamirez1 on Twitter.

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About the Contributor
Isaiah Ramirez is a senior multimedia journalism major at the University of Texas at El Paso. Isaiah has worked for the university’s paper The Prospector since Spring 2018 and has held the position as a sports editor and is currently a reporter at the publication. During the fall semesters he also works as an on-air reporter for Football Friday Nights a weekly radio show showcasing local football games broadcasted by 600 ESPN El Paso. He covers local news as well as local and UTEP sporting events such as football, men’s and women’s basketball, and has covered the annual Hyundai Sun Bowl game and two-time NBA champion Danny Green’s basketball camp here in the Sun City.
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Group says UTEP’s disabled parking costs too much. Official says that’s ‘misleading’